The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dating the Past

I was on a date once, years and years back, and we were talking about something entirely unrelated - I think it had to do with favorite restaurants, when the women with whom I was out said "you know, I think archaeology used to be about telling people the truth about the past, but now it's about trying to cover up inconvenient facts and hide the truth." She then proceeded to talk about a geologist who claims that weathering on the Sphinx of Giza is such that it must be older than archaeologists claim. She then began quoting Graham Hancock at me.

Needless to say, there wasn't a second date*.

What was striking about this was not the fact that someone out there buys into pseudohistorical nonsense, but that they would bring it up to one of the people that they accuse of "conspiring to hide the past" in such a matter-of-fact way, as if they were talking about the weather.

It's something that I have puzzled about in the six or seven years since it happened.

She seemed to take it as so astoundingly obvious that archaeologists were attempting to cover up "the truth" that, in casual conversation with an actual archaeologist, she just began commenting on it with no real preamble.

I did, of course, point out that the material that she was taking as evidence ran the gamut from questionable (an actual geologist did make the claims about the Sphinx of Giza, but his findings were not met with the wide acclaim that his view's proponents tend to claim, and his results have been questioned by many of his fellow geologists) to completely false (Graham Hancock is notorious for simply making shit up and claiming it as gospel). She listened politely, but whether or not anything I said had any effect, I couldn't tell you.

It's the sort of event that I am sure has some significance, though what that significance might be I cannot say. Perhaps it's simply that pseudo-intellectual forms of argument are common enough that, even when confronting one of the people that one believes is responsible for "covering up the truth", it is still possible to make bizarre accusations in a calm tone and with a straight face.

Perhaps not.

The only thing that I can say for certain is that the whole experience was just damnably odd and surreal.

*I went out once with another woman who asked me to describe my research. After a gave a brief (less than 3-minute) overview, she looked at me and simply said "that sounds boring." I'm not sure which of these two reactions to my chosen profession was worse.


Lt. Cccyxx said...

Astounding ignorance vs. indifference - it's a tough call.

Let me guess: woman #2 sold real estate, or worked in a retail clothing store, or something like that?

Anthroslug said...

I actually don't remember what she did. Both of those jobs sound plausible for what I remember of her.